Freshman, Sophomore Recruiting On The Rise

Undergraduates collaborate and study in a Villanova School of Business work lounge

In other words, an already self-described “stressed” demographic of students who feel the pressure of figuring out their career trajectory from the moment they set foot on a college campus may now have to deal with another anxiety-inducing decision. Moreover the new trend also puts added pressure on students to fill their resumes with a documented work history before they graduate.

Because of the dramatic shift, Stover says her mantra to undergraduate students about internships has migrated from “each one get one” to “get at least one.” Knowing that the trend is to target students as early as sophomore and freshman years, she says companies are likely expecting more experience on students’ resumes when they come to them for full-time hire. “Employers are now looking for more than one piece of evidence that students can apply theory to practice, have emotional intelligence, etcetera in the workplace,” Stover says.  

This coincides with a recent Job Outlook 2018 report that was released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. In a survey of about 200 organizations, companies said one of the biggest factors influencing their decision-making practices when hiring college new graduates was whether the student has completed a prior internship with the organization, or gotten some internship experience within the organization’s industry.


To this end, you can almost say the clock starts ticking immediately upon enrollment. For instance, Villanova tells Poets&Quants for Undergrads that two years ago, in July of 2016, Goldman Sachs launched internship recruiting for the summer of 2017. The students they were targeting? Those who had just completed their freshman or sophomore year.

Earlier reporting from Poets&Quants for Undergrads has found that many schools, in fact, have been seeing an unprecedented shift in summer internship recruiting, whereby recruiters interview and make offers as early as the fall semester. With companies upping the ante even more, “You’re going to be out of the loop if you’re not on it,” Stover says.


This warning is even more dire for students in two-year programs. As companies seek to target undergraduates sooner and sooner, those in two-year programs are in an even greater crunch since they don’t even matriculate into their school — and get into their major studies — until the second or third year of college.

I can’t tell you how many emails I get asking me to push things out to freshmen I simply don’t have,” says Jane Hershman of Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business. Emory students don’t enter the business school until their second or third year, first completing a required liberal arts foundation. “Being the two-year program we are, the students really don’t have access to us until they get matriculated,” Hershman says. “They have a fine career center at the university level, but it’s really different. What can we do? We’re lucky in that we have a strong alumni network and we partner with admissions staff, but we’re having to readimagine how we deliver curricular development and career education content.”

At Goizueta, re-imagining — at least for now — means creating a sense of urgency without frightening their students or sending them into a panic. They’re increasing their outreach to pre-BBA students, immediately introducing them to the job board where opportunities are posted, and walking them through the recruiting calendar.

“We’re really telling them, ‘You don’t have time to wait,’” Hershman says.


Goizueta Business School at Emory University

There’s also a reshuffling of the deck when it comes to things like site visits and recruiting events. At Goizueta, Hershman says the school has had to rearrange most of its initiatives to keep up with the accelerated recruiting schedules — the guiding principle being to do everything sooner rather than later.

The last four years, for instance, the school has done a sophomore boot camp for pre-business school students. The school takes roughly 40 students interested in financial services careers to meet with representatives of about 20 firms. One company will host as students get to interact, engage, and ask questions. The intent is purely educational: to help students learn about the different jobs that a B-school grad can get on Wall Street in and outside of investment banking, what people in those jobs actually do, and what the culture is like inside different firms.

“The first year, we did it in May after the semester was over and we were ahead of the curve. The last few years it’s been in January, before the start of Spring semester, out of necessity.”

At Olin, where students are admitted as freshmen — the school also sees a lot of transfers from within the university — they are adapting to the trend in similar ways. “Our prep has to be sooner and it is more intense,” Karen Heise says. “We don’t push them, but it doesn’t take them long to hear and see market trends. As sophomores, that’s when we are doing actual outreach. That’s where we do treks and we take them out in the market. We do it fall of sophomore year because during sophomore year is when companies will start pre-identifying them.”


Still, schools say the accelerated interest of potential employers shouldn’t deter prospective students from going into a two-year program. In Emory’s case, Hershman says, “Two years for liberal arts is a differentiator for Goizueta. And that’s not a knock on four-year programs. But, that East Asian Studies class you take freshman year has value whether you realize it or not.”

She continues: “So, I wouldn’t let this trend dissuade you from going into a two-year program. If you’re a good student and you do the things you’re supposed to do and you want that internship, you’re going to get something. Pick a school that will let you leverage your strengths and engage in personal development that’s important to your college experience.

“Go where you know you’ll learn or grow the most and you’ll be all right.”

(See the following page for internship data on all of Poets&Quants top undergraduate business schools.)

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